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1 John 4:7–8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 Beloved ones, let us love one another, for love is from God; and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
The letter returns to a subject already talked about—love—which comes from God. If we want to be like God, we, too, must love. Love becomes another test of believers. Only those born of God know how to love. They know how because they know God, the only source of love. We must admit that we see remarkable displays of sacrificial love among those who reject Christ. So in what sense can we agree that everyone who loves is born of God? It would be wrong to conclude that anybody who shows love is a child of God, regardless of whether he or she actually believes in Jesus.
This conclusion is possible only if we take this statement out of its context. John has already made the point that the true child of God both loves and believes (3:23). Yet, even those who are not true children of God can love others—sometimes even more fully than many Christians—because we have all been created in the image of God. The capacity to love comes to us as part of divine creation. Yet, true love—love that includes loving God and the full expression of love for others, namely telling them about salvation in Jesus—is characteristic only of true Christians.
Then John flipped the coin over, claiming that anyone who does not show love does not know God. The evidence of this? The nature of God. His very essence is love. Thus, this negative test seems easier to understand. How could someone receive divine life through Jesus, have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and not love? A person saved by love and indwelled with love must love. We may have trouble loving perfectly, but there is a big difference between not loving perfectly and not loving at all.
By David Walls and Max Anders